Alstonia Pneumatophora, Nee Soon Swamp Forest

Alstonia Pneumatophora, Nee Soon Swamp ForestTony O’Dempsey, 54, amateur conservationist and activistMr O’Dempsey, or more affectionately known to fellow nature enthusiasts as Uncle Tony, has beencombing local nature reserves for the past three years in search of a critically endangered swampspecies: Alstonia Pneumatophora.From only two known trees, he has now arrived at a tally of 16 trees. His favourite specimen stands by asmall stream in Nee Soon Swamp Forest, and is estimated to be more than 100 years old. Typical oftrees in swamp habitats, its knee-like roots dip into the water and grow out a distance away from thetrunk to breathe. In some cases, these roots can be traced up to 25 metres away.In the 1800s, Singapore was largely covered by freshwater swamp forests. Land conversion over thepast 200 years has resulted in severe habitat loss, making older specimens of these trees rareremnants of Singapore’s native landscape. Mr O’Dempsey says: “This species is literally the ‘livingdead’.” Once the current mature trees die out over time, there are not enough progeny to take over dueto habitat loss and sparseness of the mature trees.”Over the last 20 years, Mr O’Dempsey has explored almost all the forests in Singapore and documentshis discoveries on his personal webpage, Flora Singapura. He once found himself sinking waist-deepinto a swamp before realising that it was probably better to take someone else along next time.One line at the back of postcard :No.4Alstonia Pneumatophora, Nee Soon Swamp ForestThe ‘Living Dead’